Thanks to excellent reporting by Andrew Duffy of the Ottawa Citizen, Canadians recently learned of a disturbing decision from Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith that acquitted a man of sexual assault against his former wife because the man and his then wife believed that their religion and culture entitled him to have sex with her whether she consented or not.
The decision is especially alarming as it is based on a presumption that Canada's clear criminal law that requires actual consent to sexual contact is somehow superseded by a cultural or religious belief. Further, the ruling undermines specific protections enacted in Canadian law that protect women, including those who are married, from non-consensual sexual contact.
The ruling also ignores the long standing Canadian legal principle that ignorance of the law is not a criminal defense. In summary, the ruling appears to place religious and cultural beliefs above the laws of Canada.